NZ kiwifruit companies investigate Psa lawsuit options
Four New Zealand packing companies are considering legal action over the introduction of harmful kiwifruit disease Psa-V, website Sunlive.co.nz reported.
Seeka, EastPack, Satara and Mount Pack & Cool are working together to consider a class action suit for industry losses following the disease’s introduction to New Zealand.
Seeka CEO Michael Franks said advice to move forward was reasonably strong, although the final decision would not be clear for six to eight weeks.
Current discussions will decide if action should be taken against the New Zealand government, the Ministry of Primary Industries or import companies who may be connected to the disease’s spread.
“Psa was not introduced by growers but they have lost capital value and suffered distress. If it is true that it got here because of a breech at the border, then they should be able to seek redress. It is too premature for me to say against whom,” Franks was quoted as saying.
According to New Zealand’s Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), 2025 orchards had been identified with Psa-V as of Nov. 28. This equates to 9,465 affected hectares and 68% of farmed hectares being on an orchard identified with Psa-V. In the past week alone, 30 orchards were identified with Psa-V.
Psa-V has been particularly deadly for gold varieties. New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. President Neil Trebilco said the disease has cut the industry in half, hitting producers of gold kiwifruit the most.
“The industry was said to be worth around $5 billion and Psa has more than halved that. In addition, Bay of Plenty gold growers have not only lost equity, they will also have no income from a gold crop this coming season,” Trebilco said.
The New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. is also considering legal action.
Significant government funds have been invested to fight Psa-V, including a NZ$25 million (US$20.5 million) grant in 2010 that was matched by the industry.
Trebilco said that although the funds help, they do little good for growers who are currently suffering.